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Explaining Early Decision & Early Action

“Early Decision” and “Early Action” are likely terms that you have heard before when talking about the college application process.


The biggest thing to get your head around – what is the difference between the two? They have similar names but are quite different in their outcomes.


Well, as the name implies, both are earlier than regular application deadlines. Typical deadlines for regular applications can be December 1st and January 15, whereas early deadlines means you’re probably submitting around November 1st.


One of the biggest advantages of these early applications is that you will receive your admissions decisions back earlier as well! You may find out in December or January about your dream school, which means you can relax and enjoy the rest of your senior year much more than if you are waiting for your decisions later in the year.


Now, let’s look at the differences between the two!


Early Action is not binding and you can apply to as many early action schools as you would like. This can be a great option because it means you have submitted applications to schools early in the season – they’re off your plate!


Early decision is binding! And, you can apply to only one, because you are saying that if they accept you, you will 100% go to that school.


One of the challenges can be that you will not find out about other schools until later in the year, and if it turns out that you get into a different school that you’d actually like to attend more than your early decision school, you don’t have the option to switch. So, if you are torn on which school you would ultimately like to attend, or which major you’d like to do, early decision might not be for you.


Another aspect of early decision to consider is the financial side of it all. If you apply early decision, you’re telling the school that you will attend no matter what. This means they are less likely to offer you a scholarship or financial aid because they know they don’t need to add those incentives to sway you to attend their school. If you are counting on some financial help, early decision again may not be right for you.


Something to keep in mind is that some colleges do take a substantial amount of their incoming class from that early decision pool. Many elite schools look at early decision as a way to separate the students that are “kind of interested” with the students that are willing to commit 100% to that school. This can be an advantage if you are able to apply early decision. 


Remember, you need to do your research on the specific school. It is not a blanket statement that “all elite schools will take a higher percentage of their class from the early decision applicants”. Some schools only take a slightly higher percentage, and some the difference between early and regular admissions round is not noticeable at all.


If you are not accepted to your early decision school, you may be deferred, which means the school will move on to consider your application in the regular round against the pool of regular admissions students. 


Our biggest tip is to do your research! Talk to your school (and Insight!) counselor, your parents and family members. Figure out if you have a school on your list that might be a good candidate for early decision, and if you do, make sure you are prepared for the financially and mentally to commit to that school.


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